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by Laura Lehman Amstutz
Engle has traveled to Ethiopia six times. He often teaches at MK College when he travels.
James R. (Jim) Engle's carry-on bag is packed with the essentials: a study Bible, class notes and some shards of ancient pottery. Dr. Engle, professor of Old Testament at Eastern Mennonite Seminary, is on his way to Ethiopia where he will teach two Old Testament courses at Meserete Kristos College in Debre Zeit.
This is Engle's sixth trip to Ethiopia. He spent two earlier sabbaticals teaching at MK College.
"I can't really put my finger on the unexplainable tug that draws me back to Ethiopia," said Engle. "It is somehow a God-thing. People there pray - and I try to be open to God's call."
This is an historic trip for Engle and EMS. Engle will be the first full-time professor from EMS to teach graduate courses at MK College as part of his regular teaching load. Engle will teach an undergraduate course at the main campus and a graduate course in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city.
Several years ago leaders at MK College asked EMS help them develop a seminary program. EMS hired Calvin E. and Marie Shenk, long-time missionaries in Ethiopia, to study and facilitate the project. Two generous donors, as well as Schowalter Foundation, Inc. of Newton, Kansas, stepped forward to make the study and facilitation of this project possible.
"The Meserete Kristos Church in Ethiopia is growing at the rate of 10 percent or more per year," said seminary dean Ervin R. Stutzman. "They desperately need trained leaders, and we believe that God is calling us to work with the church in Ethiopia in the training of these leaders," he added.
Engle is looking forward to teaching at MK College. "I often feel a special appreciation and respect for the students," he said. "The warmth and hospitality of Ethiopians is something extraordinary.
"Most of the undergrads whom we have taught at Meserete Kristos College are older than our typical U.S. undergrads," said Engle. "Many are already church leaders and are highly motivated and spiritually/theologically ready to engage with their studies. In that respect, they are much like stateside seminary students who come with little college training."
This summer, Calvin Shenk taught two history classes for graduate students and had several discussions with leaders of the church and the school about the kind of program they hope to develop.
The Meserete Kristos church and EMS have a long history of interaction.
At least a dozen students have come from Ethiopia to study. The most recent student is 2008 graduate Selamawit Stephanos, who has returned to MK College to teach in their undergraduate program.